In this career, we are always coming across different scenarios that we've never experienced before. Sometimes, it seems that the universe is completely against us filling a position.

This is one of those times. Literally everything that could happen... did. After 5 years in recruiting, I want to make sure I'm constantly learning and growing.

As I think about the whole process and what I can learn from this experience, I thought I'd share and see what insight others may have on this one. 

The (Long) Story

I've been working with a candidate on a permanent Director of Treasury position with my client for 3 months. She lives about 4 hours away so would have to relocate herself and her family for the position. She interviewed in person in February and was in love with the company and the opportunity. This would be a huge step up in her career and she got along very well with the CFO. Unfortunately, the client dragged their feet after the initial interview. And in the meantime, my candidate was interviewing for other positions local to her. 

About a month ago, she got an offer for a bank she'd interviewed with through another firm. We talked about it and she really wanted to work for my client but was also so unhappy at her current job and this was a good offer. She didn't know what to do. The other firm gave her 2 hours (really?) to give them an answer. The recruiter and sales person got her on the phone and yelled and cursed at her. They threatened that she'd be an idiot to turn down this offer and told her that if she didn't accept and tell my client that she's off the market, they'd never work with her again and she'd possibly not get anything else. This recruiter had placed her at her current company years ago and hadn't taken a fee so she felt some sort of obligation to them. We told our client that she had another offer but they needed to have a 2nd round interview before extending an offer, so they wished her luck. Well, in the end, she accepted their offer and put in her notice but told me that she still wanted to be considered for our clients' position.

We pushed our client and were able to set up the necessary 2nd round interview and the candidate drove back down, meeting with a couple more senior executives. She did really well and her excitement for the position increased.

Meanwhile, she left her company and started her new job. We were in touch almost daily during these last 2-3 weeks, texting, emailing and calling. She didn't like the new company. They work 12+ hour days almost every day (sounds familiar) and it seems as though no one there is happy. She also found out that 3 people have held her role and failed over the last couple years. She was still very interested in my clients' position.

Last week, she received another offer from a position she'd interviewed for. It was a great offer but she really didn't want the job. She didn't get a great feeling from them at the interview so declined the offer. Still, we used this as leverage with our client. Two days later, we finally got the offer! It was 5K less than she wanted (and had been pre-closed at) but came with a 10K sign on bonus to make up for it. After trying to pre-close her again at the new salary unsuccessfully, I went ahead and extended the offer. She was suddenly wishy-washy. It turned out that she'd also told her new company about the last offer she'd gotten. They responded by making a lot of promises for more money and giving her the opportunity for autonomy, saying that she can set up the department any way she'd like. Now, she thinks she may just stick it out. 

It was clear during this conversation that she was somewhat insecure. She was worried about upsetting her current company (who are "so excited about her") and that she'd upset me and my client, making it a very tough decision. She now knows what her current company expects from her and isn't sure if she'd be successful in the position with my client. I told her to remove everyone but herself and her family from the equation. I also used that opportunity to remind her of all the things she'd told me she didn't like about where she is now and all the reasons she'd told me that she really wanted the position I was now offering her. Then, I left it in her hands and gave her 24 hours to decide.

At this point, I'd typically bring in the sales rep for the position to help me close the candidate but didn't want to do that with this one. Mostly because we'd developed such a great relationship but also because of the horrible experience she'd had with the other recruiter. It was clear that putting pressure on her would ensure that she wouldn't accept. As hard as it was, I had to leave her alone to make this huge decision with her husband.

The following day, I received an email (Seriously? After everything? An EMAIL?!) letting me know that she was declining the offer. I called her but she didn't answer or call back. Ouch.

The next day, the candidate sent me an Edible Arrangement thanking me for everything I'd done. I've never gotten anything like this from a candidate I didn't actually put to work. It was a nice gesture and a real reminder of why I do this.

What can we learn from this?

  1. "Time Kills All Deals": My client took too long. She's a really great candidate and they knew it and she was always their top choice. But, they took their time and gave her a chance to find something else.
  2. Things change, sometimes overnight
  3. It's not about me. It was really hard to not take this one personally but in the end it's about the candidate and the client. I'm just the liaison in between. Her decision has nothing to do with me.
  4. I did the right thing by being more of a cheerleader and coach for her. I listened to her and talked her through everything during the entire process. I was honest and did what I said I would do. For that, she did the same for me. And she appreciated my efforts and consultative approach so much that she wanted to send me something to say "thanks". It's not the several grand in commission I would've gotten but still.. In the end, I did nothing for her except to be there and give her advise. Sometimes that's all people need or want from their recruiter.

What, if anything, would you have done differently? Any other lessons I could or should learn from this experience?

Views: 632

Comment by Matt Charney on April 14, 2014 at 7:20am

Becky - awesome post; thanks so much for sharing your experience. I think, personally, you did the one thing that it takes recruiters far more than 5 years to realize: it's about the person, not the placement. This is a primer for candidate experience, albeit probably not for getting paid - although this, if anything, cements your future credibility.  #3 is spot on and I really wish more recruiters would realize this.  Thanks so much for weighing in and curious to hear what our members think - appreciate your sharing this with us.  Keep the good stuff coming.

Comment by Becky Northrup on April 14, 2014 at 11:28am

Thanks, Matt! It can be very challenging to not take things personally. Especially with how much work and follow up that go in to filling a position. This has been something I've learned recently and this specific situation helped to solidify that. Looking forward to hearing others' thoughts as well!

Comment by Derdiver on April 14, 2014 at 3:22pm

My take? I agree with your take list of what was learned, however while doing what you did was admirable at the end of the day the client writes the checks.  You should have been doing do diligence by working with other candidates for the role. Emotion can not play in to it at all. There should have been good back up candidates interviewing and coming from you.  I do push a certain candidate that I feel is a better fit then another one but that is ultimately not my choice. Its the clients.  

Comment by Becky Northrup on April 14, 2014 at 3:31pm

Good point, Derdiver. I definitely shouldn't have depended on the one candidate and it would've helped our relationship with the client to tell them that she didn't accept but we have another option, or to have more people interviewing at the same time. We did send them 4 resumes total and she's the only one they interviewed. But I definitely didn't keep recruiting on it when I thought I'd found "the one". Great take-away. Thanks!

Comment by Derdiver on April 14, 2014 at 3:33pm

Sure thing. That is what this board is mostly about!! 

Comment by Leena Chhabra on April 14, 2014 at 4:35pm

Good Post!! I have been in Recruiting just for 2 years and find it is hard to not take things personally. But as you said each experience teach us something new. 'The thing that dont break us makes us strong' Still there is always the nagging thought about did I do something wrong? did I not say the right things? was there any other way to convince the candidate to accept the offer? etc etc. Initially it was very hard to let go and concentrate but now getting used to the rejections and things not going my way !!!

Comment by Loic Plantade on April 15, 2014 at 8:11am

Good experience post. The enthousiasm of  both candidate and client, very often makes us beleive the mission is completed while it is not. I think that I would have done the same. I agree on your n°1 point time is a major factor, regarding the second, yes things can change overnight and I always keep myself ready for such behavior in case of a relocation. For the number 3 I do not really agree, your mission is to make the liaison which is right, but when you bring a client the right candidate you must control the client if they do not move fast enough otherwise your job may be spoiled. Regarding the last point, all in this point shows your personnal involvment in doing your job, this is very valuable.

Comment by Becky Northrup on April 15, 2014 at 11:30am

Thank you for your thoughts and feedback Leena and Loic!

Leena: It's important to look back and see what you could've/should've done or said differently but it's also important to let it go and move on to the next. Easier said than done at times!

Loic: This would've been our first placement with this client so the relationship isn't completely in place and we aren't proven with them yet, making it challenging to control them. But those are really just excuses in the end. You're completely right. We didn't have control over client or even candidate for this position. Thank you for your feedback!

Comment by Don Fraser on April 15, 2014 at 11:39am

Hi Becky, First of all I really like your approach to the situation. It takes patience and a true appreciation for this business to handle things selflessly the way you did. Nice job! Obviously you didn't get that placement but I think the experience alone will pay for itself many times over down the road.

It's hard to give real accurate advice without know more details, such as what the candidate was originally motivated by and how you found her etc... However I do wonder about the relocation portion, were the other jobs local to her? I didn't notice if a lot of attention had been put on that... This could be an important part of the equation.

Besides the location, my approach would have included a lot of counteroffer discussions before her other interviews. I treat all competitive interviews just like counteroffers and cover them thoroughly beforehand whenever possible. Did you discuss the other offers and what she might do before she went on those interviews?

Comment by Becky Northrup on April 15, 2014 at 1:05pm

Thanks Don! Of the other 2 positions, 1 was local (the one she accepted) and the other would require relocation to the same area as mine (the one she declined). We did talk about all of the other positions and interviews in detail and until the day the offer came in, she would've taken my client's position over any of them, including the one she accepted and started. It seemed at the time like she accepted it she was just so ready to get out of her initial company as well as the fact that the other recruiter put so much pressure on her. Relocation was never a concern for her, she didn't even want assistance to relocate. All that being said, I was a little surprised that she didn't accept the second offer she received because it was almost 30K more than she was making and hit almost all of her wants/needs. Looking back, this was a big red flag that required more conversation.


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